My high school girlfriend and I are now both students at different colleges. We have been doing the long distance relationship for 1 1/2 years and we talk on the phone for about 2 hours every day. My girlfriend has terrible anxiety and obsession about many different things. Every day on the phone she complains to me about all the different ways her life sucks. Sometimes she sobs and I feel like I can’t end the phone call until I have made her happy again. The weight of her problems and her expectations of me solving all of them is starting to press down on me and I feel sick and tired of playing the therapist role every night with her. I don’t know what to do because I love her so much and don’t want to break up with her necessarily, but I cant listen to her complain to me every single day. How do I either talk to her or break up with her?
A: You’re absolutely right. Your girlfriend is asking for far more support than is normal or healthy for a romantic relationship. I’m sure her pain is real. I’m sure she talks to you because she trusts you. I’m also guessing that she is having a terrible time adjusting to being in college. She sounds very scared. Complaining to you for hours of every day not only doesn’t help, but also prevents her from actually facing her fears and getting involved with people at her school.
There is a limit to how helpful you can be. You can’t possibly be objective. You don’t have the training or experience to offer her the help a professional can give her. In a way, talking to you is maintaining her distress and destroying the very relationship she values.
I suggest you tell her that the two of you need to save your relationship from imploding from her anxiety. Healthy relationships are based on equality. As long as you are the helper and she is the “helpee,” your relationship can’t grow as it should.
Encourage her to go to her college mental health services for an evaluation. Tell her that you need to resign from being her therapist and that she needs to find a qualified replacement. If she gets upset, gently and lovingly tell her you will talk about anything except her troubles until she is actively in therapy. A relationship can’t thrive if every silver moment has a black cloud around it.
It’s time you stopped being a therapist so you can be a boyfriend again.
I wish you well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Dec 2010
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). I can’t deal with being my girlfriend’s therapist any longer!. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 9, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/12/06/i-cant-deal-with-being-my-girlfriends-therapist-any-longer/